Dark Skies is an enjoyable little science fiction chiller. It’s not startlingly original, but enough time has passed since the mid-nineties, post X-Files glut of alien abduction stories to feel fresh.
Kerri Russell and Josh Hamilton star as a couple who experience strange goings on in their family home. Their children also realise that something is amiss and it doesn’t take long before they realise that they may not be alone.
Dark Skies is quite low key and it feels oddly quaint. Writer/director Scott Stewart builds admirable tension and keeps things small, without (thankfully) going down the found footage route. Stewart channels early Spielberg (or maybe Tobe Hooper), by setting up mundane suburban life that is rocked by extra terrestrial visitors. Dark Skies plays like a family drama with alien undertones, which helps keep things grounded when events start to get a little far-fetched.
It’s admirable that Dark Skies is so old fashioned. Stewart clearly wanted to make a film that had the same tone as Close Encounters of The Third Kind, weaving the science fiction around everyday life. He’s successful enough in doing this, but it feels like there’s a tiny piece of the puzzle missing.
Russell and Hamilton are decent in the leads and they offer enough realism to their characters to have audience empathy. I’m not too sure about the subplot that involves their teenage son, played Dakota Goyo – it feels shoehorned in to appeal to a teenage audience, who wouldn’t be interested in this because of the slow pacing. It distracts from the main focus, but you feel that Stewart wanted to add an extra Spielbergian flourish.
Dark Skies is never going to make anyone’s top ten list, but it’s a decent little science fiction drama with enough jumps to keep you entertained. It’s entry-level horror, for those who can’t handle the heavy scares of something darker and sometimes that’s all you need.
The Dark Skies DVD features some so-so deleted scenes and a (better) alternate ending along with a director, producer, editor commentary that’s informative, if a little crowded.